Death in the Real World

There was poetry in it, or perhaps some kind of metaphor. The cematary was edged right up to the high school, and it almost appeared that they were elbowing each other– gently, I hoped– for space. The boundary of land between them zigged and zagged back in forth in neat little rectangular plots.
That’s how I found myself ambling among the tomb stones while football practice carried on: students made oversized in pads, bustling this way in that, looking like a warrior training camp (I suppose in some sense it was) the yells, the sounds of the runners, of the meaty thuds as they assaulted the tackling dummies.
But that came from afar. It almost enhanced the quiet, where I was, through the power of contrast.

It didn’t take us long. In the movies, fictional characters never forget where the grave stone is. When deaths happen in movies they are Monumental. When people visit grave sites it is High Drama. In real life?
My grandmother died about 8 years ago. And I loved her. But somehow I had never made it here. I don’t know why.
We located it soon and quickly enough. My dad, her son, was with us. If he hadn’t been there, it would not have been such an easy thing. But we stood there.
Dad, and me, and my youngest son, Ethan. Three generations come to pay homage to a fourth generation.
In a movie, if it hadn’t been thundering out, if I hadn’t been there drinking liquor straight out of the bottle, if I hadn’t been railing at the injustice of the world, at the bare minimum we would have shared stories and talked about her.
But we stood in companionable silence. Even Ethan, who is forever bouncing, bopping, running, rolling, or at least wandering, he stood with us, just quiet. It wasn’t somber, just a quiet moment, on an amazing Fallish day, leaves just hinting that maybe they will turn colors, breeze mitigating the suns intensity.
There is a story: why we were there. What we did next. It’s a story I am still in the middle of, a true story that hasn’t yet resolved itself. I’d like to tell you that story. But one of the places it starts is there, at my grandmothers grave, with my dad and my boy.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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